One concern I hear from job seekers in their 50’s and above is the prevalence of ageism they encounter in their job search. While I don’t disagree with these job seekers that it exists, I also tell them that they could do a better job of not broadcasting their age.
There are four major areas where older job seekers need to be cognizant of how they present themselves:
- LinkedIn profile
- The interview
If you’re an older job seeker and feel that you are experiencing ageism, take a close look at these major areas and ask yourself if you are broadcasting your age.
You’re definitely broadcasting your age if you begin your Performance Profile with, “More than 30 years of progressive project management in manufacturing.” Just do the math. That puts you at least around 55, or quite possibly higher.
Another way you’re broadcasting your age is by listing every job you’ve had since the 80’s. Many job seekers feel that going back 25 or more years demonstrates relevant experience, but this is erroneous thinking; technology and procedures have changed. I advise job seekers to go back no further than 10 or 15 years.
The most obvious way to broadcast your age is by listing your graduation date from university or high school. Someone who graduates from university in 1985 makes them around 55. (I know this because I graduated in 1987.)
I’m often asked, “Why should we lie? They’re going to know our age when we get to the interview.” True, they will or can guess your age when you get to the interview, but the idea is to get to the interview, where you’ll have the opportunity to sell yourself based on the benefits of a mature worker.
Besides, you’re not lying. You’re just not disclosing the whole truth.
For more résumé writing tips, read this article.
Your LinkedIn Profile
Here’s the most obvious way to broadcast your age…you don’t have a LinkedIn profile.
Here’s another red flag: you don’t have a photo. What is a recruiter to think when they don’t see a photo? The answer is that you’re trying to hide something.
Here you’re probably thinking that I’m contradicting myself. I shouldn’t reveal my age on my résumé, but it’s alright to show my age with a photo? Here’s the thing; your profile is a networking document and without one, you’re killing your networking opportunities.
When people tell me they don’t have a photo because they look too old, I have two responses. First, it’s not your age that matters, it’s the quality of the photo. A little brushing up doesn’t hurt, and if you want to color your hair (guys), that’s an option.
My second point is perhaps the most salient; you’ll never know if you’re a victim of ageism because the few employers daft enough not to give you a second look won’t contact you. Whereas the ones who appreciate an older worker will reach out.
But really, LinkedIn is a networking application, and to network you need to come across as personable. This means having a photo which makes you memorable and shows your personality.
Finally, like your résumé, you list too many years of employment. I suggest being consistent with the number of years you list on your résumé.
I’ve heard people broadcast their age by saying to me, “I’ve been out of work for six months, probably because of my age.” Or “Getting a job will be tough because I’m over 55.” Or “Would you hire someone my age?”
To the last remark, I think, “No. Not because of your age; because you’re already giving up the fight.” If you want someone in your corner—going to bat for you—you need to come across as confident; not demonstrating a defeatist attitude.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d have the same concern if I were to lose my job. But I also believe that to dwell on your age and talk about it while networking is a complete turn off. It doesn’t express your value; it detracts from it.
Your goal is to show value with whomever you speak; this includes people who can be your greatest allies. It’s not only people you network with at organized events; it’s also people in your community and your former colleagues.
To show vitality, dress in more fashionable clothes. I’m not suggesting that you dress like my teenage boy, but perhaps drop the expensive all-weather wool slacks and opt for Khakis. Nice polo shirts during the summer hours are great.
And please smile. A smile goes a long way in terms of showing friendliness and enthusiasm, two traits all networkers appreciate. Someone who constantly appears negative or angry is not going to attract the networking bees.
During the Interview
Older job seekers tell me it’s in the interview where they experience blatant ageism, whether it’s because of the interviewers’ body language or the questions interviewers ask. But how the job seeker feels may not be reality; it may be a preconceived notion.
The first mistake an older job seeker can make is going into the interview thinking they’ll suffer discrimination. It is written on their body language and evident by their attitude. Their EQ rapidly plummets, and the game is already lost.
Instead of assuming the worse, you should dispel the myth that older workers are not physically up to the challenge by entering the room with a skip in your step. Not literally, of course, but you know what I mean. Show vitality immediately.
Your firm handshake and steady eye contact are very important in demonstrating your confidence and strong presence. Don’t disregard these first impressions, as they speak volumes about your personality.
Have I mentioned smile?
As well, speak with confidence, addressing the interviewer/s with clarity and the proper tone. Timidity is not how you want to project yourself. Separate yourself from younger job seekers who are not self-assured.
When you answer questions be sure you answer them with confidence and always include statements about how you are willing to learn new technologies or procedures. Talk about your ability to work with a diverse group of people.
If you are directly asked how old you are (it’s happened), don’t get indignant and say, “That’s an illegal question, and I refuse to answer it.” (Unless you want to end the interview.) Instead answer truthfully and follow up with the benefits someone your age offers an employer.
Most importantly always provide answers that express the value you’ll bring to the company. The interviewer/s cannot discount this, especially if you include quantified results in your answers.
Remember that you have more job and life experience than your counterparts and can hit the ground running. Employers want people like you. Believe this.
Succeeding in these four areas of the job search are essential to your success. Maintain the mentality that you are young in spirit, yet more experienced than younger workers. Remember that you have much more to offer in terms of your maturity and EQ.
Sure there will be challenges, but you’ve faced many challenges and have successfully overcome them. This is yet another strength of older workers. Continue to focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses.